♪ tonight on a special edition of "nightline." breaking now. what could be a major development in the search for malaysia airlines flight 370. two objects spotted off the coast of australia that investigators say could be connected to the missing plane. our own david wright is actually on board the u.s. navy plane searching the area right now. but if this is the plane, what happened to it? and how exactly did it get there? for the families of those gone missing, it's been 13 long days of questions. abc's bob woodruff is with them in kuala lumpur. >> this special edition of "nightline," breaking news, the latest on flight 370, will be back in
this is a special edition of "nightline." breaking news, the latest on flight 370. >> good evening. we bring you this breaking news live on the west coast tonight. in the search for malaysia airlines flight 370 that disappeared with 239 on board. what could be a major development. at least two objects possibly related to the missing plane have been spotted on satellite imagery off the coast of australia. one of them around 78 feet long. an intensive search under way at this moment. australian and american military search planes diverted and now malaysia sending ships and aircraft to the area as well. and while officials are urging caution, they're also describing it as the post productive lead thus far as they try to get photographs of the items to determine whether they are connected to the missing plane. abc's david wright is actually on the u.s. navy aircraft over the area and was able to call in
from the cockpit with this exclusive report. >> reporter: this is david wright. i'm on board a u.s. navy poseidon. that's a search and rescue vessel. the calcine for this flight is "rescue 74." we're tasked to search an area that's headed toward the south pole from all -- almost due south of kuala lumpur. this -- what we're being told by the flight crew here that is they have some intelligence now that there is some sort of debris in the water. they're not clear what. we will be the first plane on-site. and we are just descending through the clouds right now. this plane has some of the highest-tech gear available, much of it classified. and if anybody is likely to find something down there, this plane has a very good opportunity to do so. it's a serious enough sighting of debris that not only is this
plane headed into the area but two australia planes are also headed this way. they're going to be combing the waters for the next several hours. we'll be searching for three hours, looking visually for the plane and also with the high-tech gear they have on board to see what just might be in the water. maybe a false alarm but they seem to be treating it as a very promising sign. it's 1,400 miles from antarctica, 2,775 south-southwest of kuala lumpur. and about 1,300 miles from australia. we've been traveling three hours just to get to this site. we'll have three hours close to the water to search for whatever might be down there. and then three hours to fly back. this is david wright aboard a u.s. navy p-8 poseidon, calcine "rescue 74," about 1,300 miles southwest of australia. >> thank you, david. abc's david kerley has been cover the story from the very beginning.
he's here with me at abc news headquarters in new york. abc's aviation consultant steve ganyard joins from us tokyo. to david, what happens now? how do they go about trying to determine for certain if this is connected to the plane? >> they're going to be taking some pictures if they get over this wreckage that has been spotted from the satellite, take some pictures. the pictures will give us a much better sense of whether or not this is actually wreckage. one of our experts warns that 78 feet is a pretty big piece for a plane, depending on how it hit the water, as steve ganyard would tell you, if it hits straight into the water it would pulverize. to get a big piece that would skip along the water and break up, too early to tell. these pictures should give us a much better indication. the australians have asked a merchant ship to get into this area and see what they can actually see up close. >> steve, i was going to ask you about that. if this does turn out to be connected to the plane, what do we know more now about, what does it tell us about what happened?
>> it tells us that the airplane's finally down and we're on our way to actually finding out hopefully what happened to this aircraft. there will be lots of forensics. if this is part of the aaron, if they can pick pieces of that airplane, they'll be able to do forensics like a crash scene investigation. they'll be able to look at whatever parts they pull up, look for signs of fire, impact, anything that might give them clues. there are lots of ways to do that. so now really the forensics, the really hard work begins in terms of determining what happened to this aircraft. >> and steve, you were saying that drift and current information's going to be very important now? >> yes. so part of this, remember where this aircraft is is not where it was eight or nine days ago. it's being pushed by currents. these are some pretty wild waters down near antarctica. wind is pushing the debris, the currents are pushing the debris. they need to do some
oceanographic forensics and go back and see where the currents are, look at the weather, see where the wind might have pushed it in the past week. what the australians have done right now is drop some buoys into the water that have gps receivers on them and these buoys will track the motion of the current that's around the potential wreckage and they'll send that data back so they can begin to sort of reverse engineer where the impact might have occurred. >> and david, we're talking about water that could be as deep as 14,000 feet. i would assume that that could create challenges of its own. >> the good news is those pingers from black boxes work to a depth of 20,000 feet so you could still get a signal. you need to get over where that wreckage is which is why tracing the back the currents and finding out where it may have actually impacted the water, you can listen for those pingers. you're talking about submersibles to start bringing some of this up. they'd go after the black boxes first. we don't expect to get much out
of the voice recorder because it recycles every two hours and the plane was in the air at least 7 1/2 hours. but the data record cher can have hundreds, up to thousands of data points recorded, should tell us everything about this flight and what happened to this aircraft from the moment it left kuala lumpur. >> and david, you made the point earlier that this area is actually south of what had been determined to be the search -- the specific search area they were looking at. >> right. and what's important there is that the satellite spotted this outside that search area. so is on it's an area that they may not have been concentrating on with aircraft. it also goes back to the currents. i have no idea which way the currents are moving down there. that gives you a sense, we are 12 plus days into this now, that it could have drifted away from the actual search area. the good news is that the satellite saw something. once again, we don't know what it is. but the australians seem convinced enough to send aircraft and for the prime minister to go talk to the parliament about this.
so -- and they're very good allies of us. so the first really good solid lead we've had in this. >> and steve, real quick, the fact that these satellite pictures were taken four days ago, not a problem, right? >> no, it's not a problem. remember, this wreckage is drifting around so they're looking in broad areas. it's been a painstaking search no doubt. the australians have done a terrific job and just hopefully this will be the answers we're looking for so we can begin to solve this mystery. >> steve and david kerley, thanks very much. the u.s. navy aircraft that was sent to the site took off from perth, australia, where abc producer nicky batiste is tonight. >> the anticipation here is high. it was just a few hours ago that the u.s. navy's high-tech p-8 poseidon plane took off here behind me. they've been searching the indian ocean, looking specifically at some objects that were picked up by satellite. we have heard back from the crew. and they say their radar is detecting objects of significant
size. this has given a lot of hope to the people here who are waiting for them to come back with photographs that will be analyzed before we have any clue whether or not that debris might be the missing malaysian airlines flight. >> thanks, nicky. for the families of the 239 on board, this has been an agonizing 13-day wait for answers. abc's bob woodruff has been following that part of the story from kuala lumpur. he brings us the latest from there. bob? >> reporter: dan, this is the cyber view hotel. about 12 family members, all from china, living in this place. we've seen them outside their rooms really listening to their phone calls, watching their e-mails. they're also getting their news off television. after this news came out this morning, this possibility that they may have seen debris right down in australia, it's hard to get their feelings because they're not willing to come out and speak to us. interesting, there's also a medical center that's been set up in this hotel. in fact, the other hotel in here in kuala lumpur also has the same. just in case they have some sort of stress so they can rush them
off to some other place. also up in beijing, the hotel up there today after news came out, the police escorted the family members out so they can avoid the media. all the photographers and reporters that were crowding around them. we're waiting to see how they feel today. their dream was that this plane would land safely someplace and they would find their loved ones in it. if there is debris in the water, that of course, dan, could change everything. >> got to be so difficult for them. thank you, bob. we'll be right back. when jake and i first set out on our own, we ate anything. but in time you realize the better you eat, the better you feel. these days we both eat smarter. and i give jake purina cat chow naturals. made with real chicken and salmon, it's high in protein like a cat's natural diet. and no added artificial flavors. we've come a long way.
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we're back with breaking news in connection with malaysian flight 370. we've heard from the australian prime minister who said that two objects had been seen on satellite imagery which could be connected to that plane. as a result, australian and american military vehicles, military planes, have been sent to the area to try to photograph it and then go back to australia
to analyze whether they can confirm that it was the plane. now, moments ago, john young from the australian maritime safety board held a press conference and he said this. >> rescue code nation australia has received satellite imagery of objects possibly related to the search for the missing aircraft flight mh 370. australia received an expert assessment of that satellite imagery this morning, 20th of march. the images were captured by satellite. they may not be related to the aircraft. the assessment of these images was provided by the australian geospatial intelligence organization, or a.g.o. because that's a mouthful, as a possible indication of debris south of the search area that has been the focus of the southern search operation since monday 17th of march. >> now they're calling this the
best lead they have had thus far. treating it differently than other reports of satellite imagery, et cetera. so the question, if it is the debris, what do they do next? joining me again, david kerley's been covering this story for us from the beginning. david, if it is, if they do confirm that this is the debris from the plane, what are the next steps? >> well, already they have coordinates. so the satellite has told them exactly where this debris has been found. we're at 12-plus days out since this plane disappeared. ocean currents have undoubtedly carried this debris some period of time and some distance. so they'll bring in oceanographers who will look at the currents in this specific area. as we say, just slightly south, the gentleman said, from the main area that they've been looking. then track it back. they can look at those currents and how many days have gone back. and now narrow the circle significantly so you can get some of these navy vessels, these surface warships, surface ships, over that area to start listening to the pingers from
the black boxes. now, these batteries on those black boxes have two plus more weeks on them. so if this is it and you get vessels on station rather quickly, there's a good chance you can hear it. you can hear those pingers up to 20,000 feet down. this is very deep water in the southern indian ocean and apparently there are a couple of very deep crevasses there as well. so they want to get some vessels out there and start listening once they track back the debris, if it is in fact the plane debris. >> we are still talking about three hours or so off the coast, right? so the process is, take the pictures, then bring them back to australia. meaning they can't do this sort of analysis on the planes themselves. >> it wouldn't surprise me if the australians are already getting some of their vessels headed that way. i mean, they seem very interested in this. as they said, it may not be related. but as we heard in david wright's report, they're getting some pings back as the p-8 is getting close. so it wouldn't surprise -- there are some surface vessels in the
area, australians have a navy, it wouldn't be surprising at all if they're moving something toward these coordinates. >> tentatively what you're saying, this is likely the result of more than just a satellite photo where they say, oh, there's a large item there. do you think that this is also based on other information that they're gathering? at least around the scene? >> it's hard to say. the satellite says -- listen, this has been a needle in the haystack. we kind of had the haystack since saturday. someplace off southwest australia. now a satellite says, i see a needle, maybe you should go look at it, take the pictures from the aircraft, help identify whether or not that is something you want to go look at, then send a naval vessel there. as i say, with the prime minister of australia telling the parliament, i think they're serious, they think they've got something here that is certainly worthy of some serious looking at. >> yeah, particularly when you're talking about an item that could be 78 feet long or so. so it is fair to say, then, that
this development feels different than anything we've had up to this point? >> it absolutely has. we've had all these missteps with the malaysians, the misinformation, the slow information, the contradictory information. when this moved down to australia, we're talking about the u.s. and australia working this southern part of the search area, we're working with the pros now who are out there doing their job. we've had fits and starts. we had those chinese satellite pictures several days ago which turned out to be nothing. and were released by mistake, said the chinese. these are the australians. they're our allies. these are folks you can count on. >> let's reset. here's what we do know, that the australians have found, have seen something that could be connected with flight 370. debris, possibly 78 feet long. the prime minister of australia has gone to the parliament
there, told them about it, speaking very carefully though about what it is. not confirming that it's connected to it. and so now they have sent military planes, australian and an american one. our own david wright is on the american navy plane that is going to the scene. they want to take pictures. they want to confirm that this is what they seem to believe it is. but until that moment, we have to be very careful. because we cannot confirm yet that what seems to be debris is, in fact, that. the fact that the australians are saying this is the best lead that has been found so far, and you heard steve ganyard there saying that based on what he has heard, he thinks this is very promising. but we want to be very careful. you're seeing there the actual vehicle. the plane itself that david wright is on, that is heading to the scene to a poseidon 8. and that is -- we're going to be
welcome back. this is our continuing coverage of this developing news story. at this hour, what they're calling "credible reports" that at least two objects possibly related to the malaysian flight 370 have been spotted via satellite imagery off the coast of australia. american and australian aircraft have been diverted to the location. abc's david wright is on the plane headed to the area. he filed this report minutes ago. >> reporter: we've been traveling three hours just to get to this site. we'll have three hours close to the water to search for whatever might be down there. and then three hours to fly back. we will be the first plane on-site. and we are just descending through the clouds right now. this plane has some of the highest-tech gear available, much of it classified.
and if anybody is likely to find something down there, this plane has a very good opportunity to do so. this is david wright aboard a u.s. navy p-8 poseidon, calcine "rescue 74," about 1,300 miles southwest of australia. >> as we've been talking about, the key is going to be trying to find that black box, at 20,000 feet you can hear it from, that's why they're going to head to the scene immediately. we're going to continue our breaking news coverage of this story on "good morning america." thanks for watching. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ told ya you could do it. (dad vo) i want her to be safe. so, i taught her what i could and got her a subaru. (girl) piece of cake. ♪